AfterPay Insights research among more than 5,500 consumers in the Netherlands since the corona outbreak reveals that e-commerce purchases are up +48% compared to Dutch consumers’ normal online shopping behavior, so preceding the corona outbreak. Although Dutch e-commerce is still increasing, growth has reached a ‘plateau’ in the second half of May.
We see two different but clear trends explaining consumers online purchase behavior in general, and demands on merchants specifically. First, the increasing concerns around the financial uncertainty in society have increased in importance for Dutch consumers, and are a barrier to purchase more online. Transferred to demands on merchants, this means that aspects such as trust and security have become even more important.
Second, Dutch shoppers have become more mature in their purchasing pattern. Over the past months, they have learned that making purchases online is more convenient; consumers have started to make online purchases in categories where they previously made them offline. Therefore, we continue to see that online shoppers are expanding their repertoire by venturing into new categories online. This is especially evident in Fashion where 18% of the online shoppers made at least one purchase in the second half of March, and 28% have done so in the second half of May. This partly explains the growth of Fashion with +54% in number of purchases since the corona outbreak.
The increase of online purchases is largely driven by existing online shoppers buying more. Heavy shoppers have increased e-commerce purchases and the share of the ‘no purchase’ segment has increased. This means that consumers who previously shopped offline, have started to shift purchases to online channels. Important to note here is that our research reveals that only more frequent online shoppers are prone to shifting purchases from brick and mortar stores to online in certain categories - this is especially noticeable in the food categories.
Heavy shoppers make up 15% of all Dutch online shoppers but they account for 50% of all online purchases in The Netherlands. In order to attract and retain heavy shoppers’, merchants need to focus on a fast and reliable delivery. This includes both managing these shoppers decreasing satisfaction with speed of delivery as well as helping them overcome their worry about the risk of getting contaminated by packages ordered.
E-commerce growth in The Netherlands reaches a plateau in May
Dividing the Dutch e-commerce shoppers into groups by online purchase frequency reveals some interesting insights. First of all we can see that the share of heavy shoppers (having made 5 or more online purchases during the last two weeks) has more than doubled, from 7% of the online shopper base prior to the corona outbreak to 15% by the second half of May. From a merchant perspective, heavy shoppers are a relatively small but critical segment, as they only represent 15% of Dutch online shoppers by the last weeks of May but they stand for 50% of all online purchases.
And at the other end of the spectrum, the share of infrequent online shoppers (having not made any purchases during the last two weeks) has decreased over time, from 36% of all online shoppers prior corona to 26% at the end of May, i.e. they have also started making more online purchases.
The merchant critical heavy shopper segment is dramatically over-represented among people aged 18-44, holding a full-time job with a mid to high income. The segment comprises more women and a quarter of the segment consists of women aged 18-34. The majority of heavy shoppers (50%) have kids living at home and a quarter live in urban areas. As heavy shoppers have increased from 7% of online shoppers preceding the corona outbreak to 15% in the second half of May, there has also been a shift in the demographic composition of this segment. Most notably, the inflow to this segment are women in both the pre-family and middle-aged-no-kids life stages. As a result, the earlier over-representation of high-income earners among heavy shoppers has slightly diminished.
The medium shopper segment (as defined by having made 2-4 online purchases in the last 2 weeks) has been stable over time in terms of number of consumers. This segment has a prominent middle age profile where the majority are aged 25-54. Almost a third are women aged 35-64, many with kids living at home. Overall, the segment comprises more women than men. The demographic profile of this segment since the corona outbreak has shifted slightly towards more younger women in the family life-stage.
The light shopper segment and the no purchases segment are over-represented among older consumers (aged 55+) without kids living at home. Their disposable income is also lower compared to the other shopper types. The average age of consumers in the segment has shifted over time to become even higher.
Why are Dutch consumers changing their e-commerce behavior?
Deep diving into the purchase frequency segments, 67% of heavy shoppers claim the reason for shopping more online is to avoid meeting people in physical stores – and this share has increased over time. Convenience is still the second most important driver for this segment, but it has decreased somewhat in importance recently. The pattern regarding the other drivers are quite similar between heavy shoppers and the other online shoppers.
At the beginning of the corona outbreak, the most common motivation for Dutch consumers to decrease online purchases was due to the financial uncertainty in society. During April, this barrier decreased in importance at the same time as the limited personal financial situation motivation increased in importance. And during May these motivations have swung back, so the societal financial worry is now again a larger driver for decreasing online purchases compared to the personal financial situation.
The concern that packages might carry virus has also decreased continuously. On the other hand, a driver for decreased online shopping that has become significantly more important is that consumers want to support local physical stores.
As the inherent trait of a heavy shoppers is to shop more online, consumers in this segment also need to encounter heavier barriers in order to make a conscious decision not to shop online.
Heavy shoppers are significantly more concerned about getting contaminated by the virus and about possible delays in delivery, compared to online consumers who make less purchases. And since the second half of March, we also see a significant increase in the share of heavy shoppers who motivate decreased purchases with their worry about the financial uncertainty in society.
How have Dutch consumers’ worries developed since the corona outbreak and what is the impact on e-commerce?
Without a doubt, the level of worry about the corona outbreak has a powerful impact on consumers’ e-commerce behavior.
A general conclusion is that the more worried a consumer is about corona from a health- as well as financial perspective, the more online purchases a consumer does. Heavy shoppers are the most worried, followed by Medium shoppers and Light shoppers. During the past month, the personal health worry has decreased among all shopper types. And the financial worry has not decreased among heavy shoppers but it has among mid- and light shoppers.
How have Dutch consumers’ purchases in product categories developed since the corona outbreak?
Other categories in the Netherlands displayed a growth directly following the corona outbreak, and remained basically stable during the first two months of the corona outbreak . Notable here is that many of these categories show growth during the second half of May.
There are also some categories that increased following the corona outbreak, and showed a decline in purchases during the first two months of the outbreak. As seen among the ‘stable’ categories above, many of these categories have also shown a growth during the second half of May.
Deep-diving into shopping frequency, analytics reveal that consumers’ share of online purchases made within the categories of ‘Food and groceries’ as well as ‘Take away food’ is correlated to online purchase frequency. The conclusion here is that you have to be a quite frequent online shopper (heavy shopper) in order for you to shift your food purchases from offline channels to online.
Will Dutch consumers shop more or less in June?
As might be expected, heavy shoppers are more positive towards increasing their number of online purchases in the coming month compared to the other shopper segments. But in line with the overall results, the share claiming they will buy at the same level as today is also increasing among heavy shoppers – and this pattern is consistent across all shopper types.
Which products will Dutch consumers buy more or less in June?
As described above, the main reason for the 48% total increase in e-commerce purchases in the Netherlands is that current e-commerce consumers have started buying more – as opposed to the increase being driven by offline consumers switching to online purchasing.
But we also see that online shoppers are expanding their repertoire by venturing into new categories online. This is especially evident in Fashion where 28% of the online shoppers made at least one purchase in the second half of May, and 18% had done so in the second half of March.
Dutch consumers indicate even higher demands of merchants
We see a very clear link between the number of online purchases made and the amount of demands put on merchants. The ranking of the demands is similar across the different segments based on online purchase frequency, with some interesting differences.
Light shoppers are heavily driven by the webshop being well-known and secure.
Medium shoppers prefer a webshop that they have used before and that they also know is secure.
Heavy shoppers have higher demands on almost all aspects. But in particular they have higher demands on fastest delivery time, the webshop having a wide range of products, a clear display of in stock information, flexible delivery options and reliable delivery. The demand that has increased the most among heavy shoppers is that the webshop is perceived to be secure.
Looking into the demands placed on merchants in combination with shopping frequency, heavy online shoppers in The Netherlands have significantly higher demands related to webshops having a wide range of products, displaying in-stock information as well as having both a reliable and fast delivery.
How are Dutch consumers’ changing demands affecting merchant performance?
Interestingly, the overall level of satisfaction with merchants’ performance does not differ significantly between light shoppers, medium shoppers and heavy shoppers. However, the satisfaction does differ per area.
Light shoppers are relatively more satisfied with products in stock, low price and fast delivery. But they are, on the other hand, less satisfied with the wide range of products.
Showing a rich range of products and how they fit together is fundamental, as well as giving the store visitor a good overview of the different departments.
How do you showcase your product assortment more in marketing campaigns, on your start page, category pages and designated landing pages? Can you make your product offering look richer?
Medium shoppers’ level of satisfaction across all areas is more or less in line with the average across all online shoppers, but security and good customer service stand out as key needs. Once these needs are met, the likelihood that a medium shopper transitions to a heavy shopper increases. This relates to the fact that these shoppers have a more offline mindset and prefer a tangible, face-to-face experience.
Focus on improving perceived security – a multidimensional challenge: technical, financial, payments and social reputation. Screen your existing support content – does it give trust? Stay tuned for an in-depth blog post on this subject.
Improve the availability, quality and above all perceived friendliness of your customer service department and staff.
Heavy shoppers are more satisfied with merchants’ wide range of products and the return process. And they are considerably less satisfied with products in stock, low prices and fast delivery time.
Have your consumer segments changed? Who are now your most frequent shoppers and how do you communicate with them?
Offer multiple types of delivery options and providers – especially express services and give your consumers the ability to choose the delivery option that they experience works the best in their area.
If you normally review your pricing weekly this might be the time to adopt a daily routine. Bundle products to reach higher AOVs, even though margins need to be lowered. Heavy shoppers are likely attracted to low prices, and best value can play in to the needs of this segment well.
Having products in stock that can dispatch on the same day is a message that resonates with consumers these days. Putting this information next to your price can counter balance competing lower offers.
What is next?
For our next post we will be analyzing the biggest category in e-commerce: Fashion. How has this category developed during the corona outbreak? What are consumers’ drivers, needs and how satisfied are they with the performance of online Fashion merchants? Stay with us to find out.